Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Sources indicate that Fulani herdsmen are nomadic pastoralists and mostly Muslim (France 30 Nov. 2016, 62; IEP 2017, 76). The same sources state that conflict between Fulani herdsmen and farmers, who in Nigeria are mostly Christians, increased in recent years (France 30 Nov. 2016, 62; IEP 2017, 76), driven in Nigeria by a lack of resources, desertification, ”ambiguous” land legislation, and a ”weak” rule of law (IEP 2017, 76). According to a 2016 fact-finding mission report on Nigeria by the Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides (OFPRA), conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and Christians occur in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, composed of the states of Adamawa, Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Taraba, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) (France 30 Nov. 2016, 59, 61). The same report indicates that the most-affected states are Nasarawa, Plateau and Benue, but that, more recently, conflicts have also occurred in the states of Enugu, Ekiti, Zamfara, Kaduna, and Ebonyi (France 30 Nov. 2016, 62).
2. Motivations of Fulani Herdsmen and Drivers of Conflicts
Sources indicate that Fulani herdsmen are usually focused on accessing land for their cattle (Project Cyma Nov. 2016; Ventures Africa 16 July 2016; BBC 25 June 2018), although the Fulani’s Islamic faith “sets them at odds with local communities” (Project Cyma Nov. 2016).
The OFPRA mission report, citing an Abuja-based [translation] “diplomatic representative,” states that some religious leaders complain that there is “‘a desire to evict Christians from their lands to give them to Fulani Muslims'” and that Fulani herdsmen are perceived by some as “‘an instrument of islamization'” (France 30 Nov. 2016, 62). A 2015 report by Open Doors, a Christian NGO that works in several countries “serving persecuted Christians worldwide” (Open Doors n.d.), similarly states that the reason behind the conflict between Fulani herdsmen and Christian farmers “appears to be the drive by expansionist Islamic policy to dominate the Middle Belt region” (Open Doors 1 Mar. 2015, 43).
However, the BBC reports that, while talks of “‘genocide against Christians'” is a “widely touted refrain,” it falls short of being supported by facts; “there have been many killings on both sides in this conflict” (BBC 1 May 2018). Citing a UNHCR representative, the OFPRA report similarly indicates that the conflict between Fulani herdsmen and Christian farmers is [translation] “improperly” qualified as an intercommunal conflict, and that it is rather a co-existence problem (France 30 Nov. 2016, 62). The Telegraph notes that victims of Fulani herdsmen attacks are not only Christians, as some Fulani have been killed by other Fulani tribesmen (The Telegraph 17 June 2018). Yet, a BBC reporter based in Lagos notes that the “tit-for-tat” clashes between Fulani herdsmen and Christian farmers “have erupted into inter-communal warfare” (BBC 25 June 2018). A 2017 report on the conflict between Fulani herdsmen and farmers published by Chom Bagu and Katie Smith  warns that
[d]espite distinct ethno-religious fault lines, the driving factors of current violence do not originate from religious theology or cultural hegemony, but rather from the real or perceived need to protect themselves or their livelihoods. (Bagu and Smith 2017, 14)
Further, the same report adds that there are no clear indications that Fulani herdsmen have a common political objective, and that Fulani clans generally conduct their activities independently (Bagu and Smith 2017, 14).
According to sources, some of the Fulani attacks are driven by retribution or revenge (Project Cyma Nov. 2016; Bagu and Smith 2017, 5, 14). Bagu and Smith note that violence between herdsmen and farmers arises out of “brutal” responses to land disputes and attacks on livelihoods, “triggering self-perpetuating cycles of indiscriminate reprisal confrontations” (Bagu and Smith 2017, 5). In a 2016 interview by the Nigerian media organisation Premium Times, Saleh Bayeri, the then interim National Secretary of Gan Allah Fulani Association, an “umbrella body of Fulani associations in Nigeria,” stated that a February 2016 Fulani attack on 10 Agatu communities in Benue was a “reprisal attack” against the Agatu, whom Bayeri accused of killing a prominent Fulani man in 2013 (Premium Times 19 Mar. 2016). The Premium Times article adds that the Fulani attack saw “hundreds, including women, children and the elderly,” reportedly ”massacred” by suspected Fulani herdsmen (Premium Times 19 Mar. 2016). Meanwhile, Bayeri noted that the Fulani have “records” that 300 Fulani people were killed by the Agatu, and he urged the government to investigate these killings (Premium Times 19 Mar. 2016).
A 2016 article by the Nigerian newspaper Punch indicates that some farmers in the states of Osun, Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti, Enugu, and Imo have acquired arms or weapons to defend themselves against Fulani herdsmen (Punch 7 May 2016). Without providing further details, the Telegraph reports in 2018 that “Christian tribesmen” have formed vigilante groups to defend themselves and carry out reprisal attacks; “[i]n one recent moment of vengeance, Fulanis say 50 of their members, including children, were slaughtered” (The Telegraph 17 June 2018).
A 2018 article by the Nigerian newspaper The Guardian, reporting on an interview that Garus Gololo, the president of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) , gave to BBC News Pidgin, indicates that Fulani attacks on 1 January 2018 that killed 17 people in Benue State were in “self-defense against cattle rustlers,” who stole approximately 1,000 cows from Fulani herdsmen (The Guardian 6 Jan. 2018). The same source indicates, however, that, according to the Chief Press Secretary to the Benue State government, Fulani attacks were a reaction by the Fulani against the “anti-open grazing law” of the government of Benue (The Guardian 6 Jan. 2018). Further and corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
According to the BBC, on 21 June 2018, Berom farmers killed 5 Fulani herdsmen in Plateau state, and, on 23 June 2018, a retaliatory attack led to more deaths; the state commissioner of police indicated that the attacks in the state villages culminated in the death of 86 people, 6 injured individuals, and 50 houses being burned (BBC 25 June 2018). The Nigerian newspaper The Nation quotes the MACBAN chairman for the North Central zone as stating the following:
“These attacks are retaliatory. As much as I don’t support the killing of human being[s], the truth must be told that those who carried out the attacks must be on [a] revenge mission. … There have been recent reports of cow rustling and destruction of farms between Berom farmers and Fulani herdsmen. The people carrying out these criminal activities are well known to the communities but the communities are hiding them. … Fulani herdsmen have lost about 300 cows in the last few weeks – 94 cows were rustled by armed Berom youths in Fan village, another 36 cows were killed by Berom youths. In addition to that, 174 cattle were rustled and the criminals disappeared with them to Mangu.” (The Nation 25 June 2018)
3. Modus Operandi and Incidents
A background report on Fulani herdsmen published by Project Cyma indicates that Fulani militia attacks, which are “primarily” conducted by armed gunmen against civilians, focus on “clearing land and inflicting casualties through the use of firearms” (Project Cyma Nov. 2016). The online news platform Ventures Africa further explains that Fulani herdsmen bear arms because they reportedly encounter cattle rustlers in their search for pasture, while the authorities, to whom they make complaints, fail to investigate the issue (Ventures Africa 16 July 2016). Similarly, the 2016 Punch article quotes the then MACBAN chairman for the Plateau state, Alhaji Mohammed Nuru Abdullahi, as stating that
“Fulani herdsmen do not have any security backup because they are in the rural areas where the security operatives may not be able to access. Now cattle rustling and killing of Fulani have become a lucrative business. Therefore, Fulani herdsmen will do everything possible to protect their lives and property since [the] government has failed to do so. The Fulani use the AK47 for defence since the government has failed to protect them.” (Punch 7 May 2016)
The New York Times, noting that AK-47 rifles were being used in “recent attacks,” adds that “herders have not traditionally carried such weapons” and, citing Nigerian military officials, states that “criminals and militias are behind at least some of the recent attacks. Often, the Fulani are used as the scapegoat” (The New York Times 25 June 2018). A similar account is echoed by the Executive Director of Sesôr empowerment foundation, a Nigerian NGO that provides support and “relief materials” during emergencies and following conflicts, including ”herdsmen attacks” in the Middle Belt (Sesôr n.d.), quoted by the OFPRA mission report as stating that in some cases,
”people do not really know who the attackers are. During the 2014 Benue attacks, we saw pictures of the corpses of many attackers, who did not look like Fulani Nigerians. They rather had Niger or Senegalese characteristics. They looked like mercenaries.” (France 30 Nov. 2016, 63)
3.1 Attacks on Churches, Villages, and Schools
Several sources indicate that around 30 suspected herdsmen attacked a church in April 2018 in Benue state, resulting in the death of 19 people, including 2 priests (CNN 25 Apr. 2018; The New York Times 25 June 2018).
Sources indicate that, on 28 May 2018, suspected [Fulani (Vanguard 28 May 2018)] herdsmen attacked a Catholic seminary in Jalingo, the capital of Taraba state, and shot a priest (Vanguard 28 May 2018; Premium Times 28 May 2018). The Nigerian newspaper Vanguard quotes the priest as stating that “‘[m]y offense is that I often ask [the Fulani herdsmen] to stop invading our school for grazing and stop cutting down our trees to feed their cows'” (Vanguard 28 May 2018).
Similarly, Premium Times quotes Taraba’s police commissioner as stating that “‘[s]ome shepherds had been coming to the premises to graze their cattle and the priest had challenged them about that in the past'” and as confirming that “‘the attackers were speaking Fulani and a little bit of pidgin English'” (Premium Times 28 May 2018). The same source states that police arrived at the seminary shortly after the incident, that no arrests were made, but that “an elaborate manhunt” was deployed to find those responsible for the attack (Premium Times 28 May 2018).
Sources report the following incidents involving suspected Fulani herdsmen:
• On 6 June 2017, herdsmen led their cows into a primary school in Edo state nearby Benin City to shelter their cows from unfavourable weather; despite the herdsmen’s activities being reported to the State Universal Basic Education Authority, “nothing had been done to solve the problem” (Punch 8 June 2017);
• On 8 September 2017, 19 people were killed and 5 injured by suspected Fulani herdsmen in the village of Ancha, in Plateau state, in what is believed to be a reprisal attack for the killing of a Fulani boy (Premium Times 8 Sept. 2017);
• Since 15 January 2018, approximately 25 villages [whose inhabitants are “predominantly” Christian farmers (World Watch Monitor 9 Feb. 2018)] have been destroyed by herdsmen in the state of Nasarawa (Daily Post 4 Feb. 2018);
• In February 2018, two separate attacks on villages in Adamawa state, namely the villages of Shimba and Shiure on 2 February and the villages of Tinde and Dumne on 4 February, ”believed to be” conducted by Fulani herdsmen, claimed the lives of at least 30 people and left 9 churches and several properties destroyed; a local source told World Watch Monitor  that the government “‘remained silent'” during the attacks, despite calls to the governor and his deputy (World Watch Monitor 9 Feb. 2018);
• In March 2018, 71 people were killed in a Kaduna state village by men suspected to be Fulani herdsmen on motorcycles who opened fire on the village’s fleeing inhabitants, “before setting fire to homes and hacking children to death” (The Telegraph 17 June 2018).
Information on raids by Fulani herdsmen in Benin City schools in October 2016 could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
4. Recruitment Methods
Information on recruitment methods of Fulani herdsmen could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
5. State Response
Nigerian media sources report that the following states took measures to deal with the conflict between herdsmen and farmers:
• In 2016, Ekiti state banned cattle rearing and grazing (Pulse 16 Jan. 2018);
• In May 2016, Oyo state established “grazing lands, feedlots and ranches” for Fulani herdsmen, and outlawed grazing at night and straying of cows outside the designated areas (Pulse 16 Jan. 2018);
• In November 2017, Benue state outlawed open grazing in the state, quoting an official as stating that the state government would not build ranches for herdsmen, as livestock owners should acquire land and build their ranches themselves (Pulse 16 Jan. 2018);
• Edo state has banned “night grazing, the carrying of guns by herdsmen and has set up a seven-man committee in each of the 18[l]ocal [g]overnment [a]reas,” composed of police officers and other representatives from the state and local communities and tasked with reviewing all cases of clashes between herdsmen and farmers (Vanguard 8 Feb. 2018);
• Adawama state registered 64 grazing reserves (Premium Times 18 Jan. 2018);
• Kwara state banned night grazing, in a bid to make it easier to identify and prosecute “those suspected of destroying herders’ cattle or farmlands and crops” (Premium Times 27 Mar. 2018);
• The Niger state government stated that it was “reviving and expanding” 30,000 hectares of land for herdsmen (Pulse 26 Feb. 2018).
The Nigerian news source Pulse reports in January 2018 that these legislative measures may have led to the recent ”spate of killings” (Pulse 16 Jan. 2018).
The same source quotes a MACBAN press statement as saying that the ”’anti-open-grazing law in Benue, Taraba and other states is nothing more than a symbol of intolerance and [does] not in any way intend to solve the farmers/grazers conflict as the livestock breeders interest is neither captured in the law nor in its implementation mechanism”’ (Pulse 16 Jan. 2016).
According to sources, some Nigerians believe that Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari, who is from the Fulani ethnic group, is deliberately remaining silent on the conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and farmers (Ventures Africa 16 July 2016; CNN 27 June 2018).
According to sources, there is a perception that few arrests or prosecutions have been made (Bagu and Smith 2017, 17; CNN 27 June 2018). Bagu and Smith add that “security responses to reports of ongoing attacks are delayed and attacks usually finish before security agents arrive” (Bagu and Smith 2017, 17). According to the same source, security forces are sometimes perceived to be complicit with both sides in the conflict, either by stealing, by allowing the rustling and sale of cattle, or by attacking civilians (Bagu and Smith 2017, 17). The same source adds that “[t]here have been instances of unwarranted and unsubstantiated attacks from federal troops and local police” on communities deemed responsible for the violence on both sides of the conflict (Bagu and Smith 2017, 17). The same source notes that police are perceived to have better relationships with farmers, and herdsmen with military, which exacerbates mistrust of security forces and social divisions (Bagu and Smith 2017, 17). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
 Chom Bagu is an Abuja-based journalist by training and is the Senior Peace and Conflict Advisor for Search for Common Ground [a peacebuilding organization based in Washington and Brussels (Search for Common Ground n.d.)] in Nigeria, while Katie Smith is a Policy Research Associate for Search for Common Ground and is based in Washington (Bagu and Smith 2017, 3).
 The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) is an organization established in 1972 to represent the interests of Fulani herdsmen (Waters-Bayer and Taylor-Powell 1986).
 Project Cyma is a Washington-based charitable organization that aims to promote peace in West Africa, particularly through research and community outreach (Recycling for Charities n.d.).
 World Watch Monitor is an organization that ”reports the story of Christians around the world under pressure for their faith” using ”journalistic principles” (World Watch Monitor n.d.).
Bagu, Chom and Katie Smith. 2017. Past Is Prologue: Criminality and Reprisal Attacks in Nigeria’s Middle Belt.
Washington, DC: Search for Common Grounds. [Accessed 3 Aug. 2018]
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
25 June 2018. “Nigeria’s Plateau State Clashes Leave 86 Dead.” [Accessed 1 Aug. 2018]
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 1 May 2018. “How Trump Stirred Controversy in Nigeria.” [Accessed 31 July 2018]
Cable News Network (CNN). 27 June 2018. Stephanie Busari and Bukola Adebayo. “Buhari: It’s an Injustice to Blame Me for Herdsmen
Killings.” [Accessed 2 Aug. 2018]
Cable News Network (CNN). 25 April 2018. Bukola Adebayo. ”Nigeria Church Attack Leaves 19 Dead, Including Two Priests.” [Accessed 8 Aug. 2018]
Daily Post. 4 February 2018. ”Fulani Herdsmen Sack 25 Tiv Villages in Nassarawa.” [Accessed 9 Aug. 2018]
France. 30 November 2016. Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides (OFPRA) and Cour nationale du droit d’asile (CNDA). Rapport de mission en République fédérale du Nigeria. [Accessed 3 Aug. 2018]
The Guardian [Nigeria]. 6 January 2018. Sam Oluwalana. “Why We Attacked Benue Communities-Herdsmen.” [Accessed 31 July 2018]
Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). 2017. Global Terrorism Index: Measuring and Understanding the Impact of Terrorism. [Accessed 3 Aug. 2018]
The Nation. 25 June 2018. Yusufu Aminu Idegu. “Plateau Killings Are Retaliatory – Miyatti Allah.” [Accessed 1 Aug. 2018]
The New York Times. 25 June 2018. Emmanuel Akinwotu. “Nigeria’s Farmers and Herders Fight a Deadly Battle for Scarce Resources.” [Accessed 31 July 2018]
Open Doors. 1 March 2015. World Watch Research. Abdulbarkindo Adamu and Alupse Ben. Migration and Violent Conflict in Divided Societies. Non-Boko Haram Violence Against Christians in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria.
Nigeria Conflict Security Analysis Network (NCSAN) Working Paper No. 1. [Accessed 7 Aug. 2018]
Open Doors. N.d. “Open Doors Worldwide.” [Accessed 31 July 2018]
Premium Times. 28 May 2018. Samuel Ogundipe. “Taraba Catholic Seminary Evacuated After Suspected Herdsmen Attack.” [Accessed 1 Aug. 2018]
Premium Times. 27 March 2018. “Kwara Govt Bans Night Grazing to Curb Farmers/Herdsmen Clash.” [Accessed 2 Aug. 2018]
Premium Times. 18 January 2018. Iro Dan Fulani. “Cattle Colonies: Adamawa Govt. Registers 64 Grazing Reserves.” [Accessed 2 Aug. 2018]
Premium Times. 8 September 2017. Andrew Ajijah. “Police Confirm 19 Killed in Fresh Plateau Attack by Suspected Herdsmen.” [Accessed 2 Aug. 2018]
Premium Times. 19 March 2016. Emmanuel Mayah, Sani Tukur and Hassan Adebayo. “Exclusive: Why We Struck in Agatu – Fulani Herdsmen.” [Accessed 31 July 2018]
Project Cyma. November 2016. Gregory Burton. Background Report: The Fulani Herdsmen. [Accessed 31 July 2018]
Pulse. 26 February 2018. “Niger Govt to Revive, Expand 30,000 Hectares Bobi Grazing Reserve.” [Accessed 2 Aug. 2018]
Pulse. 16 January 2018. Samson Toromade. “What You Need to Know About Fulani Herdsmen, Anti-Open Grazing Law, Miyetti Allah.” [Accessed 2 Aug. 2018]
Punch. 8 June 2017. Alexander Okere. “Herdsmen Invade Edo School.” [Accessed 1 Aug. 2018]
Punch. 7 May 2016. Olufemi Atoyebi, Kamarudeen Ogundele, Samuel Awoyinfa and Femi Makinde. “Fulani Herdsmen: Farmers Amass Arms to Combat Killings.” [Accessed 31 July 2018]
Recycling for Charities. N.d. “Project Cyma (A Project of SocialGood Fund).” [Accessed 31 July 2018]
Search for Common Ground. N.d. “Our Mission.” [Accessed 3 Aug. 2018]
Sesôr. N.d. “About Us.” [Accessed 2 Aug. 2018]
The Telegraph. 17 June 2018. Adrian Blomfield. “The Bloody Cattle Conflict Pushing Nigeria to the Edge of Civil War.” [Accessed 1 Aug. 2018]
Vanguard. 8 February 2018. “Herdsmen/Farmers’ Clash: Edo Bans Night-Grazing, Orders Disarm of Herdsmen.” [Accessed 2 Aug. 2018]
Vanguard. 28 May 2018. Femi Bolaji. “Herdsmen Storms Seminary, Shoots Priest in Taraba.” [Accessed 1 Aug. 2018]
Ventures Africa. 16 July 2016. Adetula David. “Understanding the Fulani Herdsmen Crisis in Nigeria: Here Is Everything You Need to Know.” [Accessed 31 July 2018]
Waters-Bayer, Ann, and Taylor-Powell, E. 1986. ”Settlement and Land Use by Fulani Pastoralists in Case Study Areas.” In Livestock Systems Research in Nigeria’s Subhumid Zone. Proceedings of the Second ILCA/NAPRI Symposium, Kaduna, Nigeria, 29 October-2 November 1984. Edited by R. von Kaufmann, S. Chater and R. Blench. [Accessed 8 Aug. 2018]
World Watch Monitor. 9 February 2018. ”Nigeria: 9 Churches Burnt Down and Christian Students Attacked as Violence Continues.” [Accessed 9 Aug. 2018]
World Watch Monitor. N.d. ”About.” [Accessed 9 Aug. 2018]
Additional Sources Consulted
Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project; ecoi.net; EU – European Asylum Support Office; Human Rights Watch; International Crisis Group; UN – Refworld.
Query response on Fulani herdsmen and raids carried out by them in schools in Benin City in October 2016 (2016 – August 2018)
10 August 2018